DUC PHO — Lost, fatigued and after fighting off six Viet Cong,
Private first Class Melvin Gilpin, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 35th
Infantry, continued his trek down a lonely stretch of beach north of Duc
Pho until he was able to signal his rescuers with the top of a C-Ration
The men from the 3rd platoon were searching and clearing
a village. When they were done, the last four men of the platoon were to
give one quick final check. Going out of his way to check a hut, PFC
Gilpin became separated from his three companions.
The 3rd platoon moved 300 meters south into another
village and were getting ready to search it. After a break for chow a head
count was taken showing one missing. A squad was immediately dispatched to
search the area in which PFC Gilpin was last seen. Unable to find him, the
entire 3rd platoon was committed to the search.
An hour and a half had elapsed and the entire company was committed
along with tanks and armored personnel carriers from Company C, 2nd
Battalion, 34th Armor.
Choppers Searched Above
Choppers equipped with loud speakers were circling the area trying
to locate the lost soldier as a complete sweep of the area was conducted.
When PFC Gilpin realized that he was separated, he fired two signal
shots in hopes that they would be answered. After waiting in the area for
five-minutes an acknowledgement was not received. PFC Gilpin then entered
a trench and followed It for about two-kilometers to the beach along the
coast of the South China Sea.
Once on the beach he began walking south to link up with another
element or make it back to the brigade’s forward base camp.
"I was walking along the water’s edge and had moved about
five clicks," recalled PFC Gilpin, "when I received fire from my
right, I was able to spot six VC firing from behind small sand
With a full magazine and an M-79 round in his modified M16, he
engaged the six enemy, killing two, later confirmed by aircraft, the other
four fled to the treeline.
Spotting an observer plane in the area, PFC Gilpin cut the top off a
C-Ration can and